The English department of Lady Shri Ram College for Women called for a series of General Body Meetings in light of the increasing state of communal violence faced by the city and its people.
On 2nd March 2020, the English department called for a General Body Meeting at the Peace Centre. The GBM was centered around the issue of increasing state of communal violence faced by the city and its people, and was called in order to decide the extension of help to those affected by the violent environment. Following message was circulated by the English Department Union: “Minutes of Today’s Meeting and Call for GBM. In today’s meeting, we discussed the current political climate and what the department can do to play its part. 2A’s decision to boycott classes indefinitely was discussed, along with similar boycott by the department collectively, as well as collection drives, fundraising efforts, and volunteering at protest sites.
Students suggested the following ideas:
-Freeze attendance in case of classes undertaking boycotts or students unable to attend classes.
-Have one event a week wherein professors can discuss the larger situation creating space for discussion
-Publish a collective narrative of real experiences, use blogs and social media to raise awareness
-Restructure class lectures making classrooms flexible spaces for open ended discussions, if people really want to attend them
-A schedule of extra classes by teachers, or study sessions with seniors, once the boycott is over.
Some students also expressed their reluctance to boycott as they felt it could be a tokenistic gesture. The union has expressed these views to their staff advisors and administration and will be addressing the department about possible ways forward tomorrow at 10:45 in the peace centre before the protest gathering. If you are able to come to college, please attend this GBM.
English Department Union”
The action of boycott was first initiated by a section of second year students pursuing English honours. The section decided to go on indefinite boycott of classes in order to join protests and shake the illusion of normalcy on campus. However, differing views did arise. “I feel that it’s a very elitist stance. To go on an indefinite boycott could just hamper the education of the marginalized sections. Some can afford to pay to repeat the semester but can everybody do it? Also, what are we even doing while carrying out a boycott? Do we have a charter of demands? Are we taking any substantial step to improve the situation and actually utilize the time we have because of the boycott? If it’s only about being able to join protests then even a partial boycott on days of protests can fulfill that need. And if it’s only about showing that normalcy does not exist then it can be done while also attending classes. For instance, people could organise protests on campus after classes or wear symbols of dissent like t-shirts or any other such thing that says stuff like no NRC, CAA, NPR.”, said a student from 2A who wished to remain anonymous. On 3rd March 2020 the Union discussed their conversation with staff advisors and possible ways forward with the department. One of the resolutions was conducting online anonymous polls. Two possible outcomes came into perspective. Firstly, total indefinite boycott wherein the “entire department will call for a total boycott irrespective of internals and attendance, in solidarity with students from affected areas”. Secondly, partial boycott in which “the department will call for a boycott of classes post 11am (or suitable time), irrespective of attendance and internals, in days in which protest marches and gatherings are scheduled”. On the same day, the department announced the following: “After repeated GBMs and a vote, the department has reached a tally of 115 votes for a total boycott and 68 votes for a partial boycott. However, after the count was over, 23 students have approached us asking for a revote with a “No boycott” category. Since the option was not expressed by these people or their representatives at the GBMs, and since there is an overwhelming majority for a total boycott, this is the stance that we will be following. Since mid-sem break is right around the corner and questions arise about the situation concerning the same, we will be re-evaluating once college reopens post break.”
Many students complained about the inability to express their views freely. “I also don’t feel absolutely free to be able to share an opinion that the majority does not support because if someone is speaking of wanting to attend classes, all of them are trying to educate her on how the boycott is important and how they are being insensitive by thinking of classes so they’re trying to just reinforce their opinion all the time when they should try to accommodate everyone’s voices.”, said a second year student from Lady Shri Ram College for Women. Another GBM was called on 5th March 2020 at 11am, to discuss the matter with the department. The following message was circulated by the Union: “Based on the GBM today, the department will be following a partial boycott stance as a collective, wherein the entire department will only boycott all classes on days of protest marches and youth gatherings. However, individual sections are free to follow a total boycott stance provided the entire class agrees to this motion. This decision comes as a result of groups of students feeling bullied and targeted for picking a stance or for attending classes, as well as the confusion in communication between students and their CRs. Note:
- Classes will take place for those who wish to attend.
- For students unable to attend college due to safety concerns, the union will be making attempts to ensure that attendance is granted to you all and extra classes can be arranged as well.
- For students or classes who wish to boycott indefinitely, some teachers are willing to take extra classes in order to ensure that you do not miss out on syllabus.
- If a section comes to a consensus about total boycott, their CRs must communicate that to their teachers and ensure that no student is attending classes on the days of total boycott.
Further discussions are awaited after the mid-semester break. The department also has its annual conference- Litmus 2020 scheduled on 20th and 21st March 2020.
Feature Image Credits: DU Beat Archives
Image Credits: Department of English, LSR